Scenario Based Training - Why You Need It

We all want to believe the best of ourselves: that under stress, our judgment will be good, our mind composed, our actions swift, and our shooting fast and accurate. What really happens under stress is that we default to a performance level at or below our ability on our worst day of training. If the skill you need is one you've never practiced, odds are high that you'll perform badly.

Traditional firearms training focuses on the skills needed to win the "gunfight" part of a violent confrontation: drawing from concealment, shooting fast and accurate. One problem with this approach is that there's more to a real situation than just the shooting part. In incidents where armed citizens die or go to jail, the vast majority of mistakes are related to tactics, not shooting skills.

In a training drill, or even in an IPSC or IDPA match, you know, in advance, that you are going to shoot, which targets you are going to shoot, and where those targets are. Those targets conveniently stay in place (or move in a mechanically predictable way) and don't move as soon as you start shooting, don't shoot back, and don't talk to you.

In the real world, your main goal should be avoid being in a situation where shooting is required. If that fails, then you need to recognize as early as possible that you _are_ in mortal danger, and take every advantage to survive the incident without injury. Then after the incident, you must communicate what happened to responding officers, and the court and survive the legal fight after the gunfight.

There's no way to teach the "people skills" component of defensive training on the live fire range. The best way to learn those skills is through roleplaying exercises where you interact with real people, in real time, in structured scenarios. In our scenario based training, we set up a situation, and your instruction is to "do what you would do", applying all your training. Some situations are "shoot" situations, some are not. In some situations, you are the intended target, in others someone around you may be the victim, and you have to choose whether to come to their aid or not, and deal with the consequences of that decision. At the end of each scenario, we discuss what happened, and often we replay the action, to show the different endings that occur if different decisions are made.

I've spent nearly 40 years as a performing musician, so pardon me as I make a musical analogy:

A real world situation is like playing jazz. Unlike classical music, where every note for every musician is written, most jazz music consists of a "lead sheet" (a very minimal guideline showing chords and the melody). You can give two different jazz bands the same lead sheet, ask each to play the song, and get two very different interpretations of the same song. You can ask one jazz band to play the same song twice, and get two different interpretations, because what is played depends on the interaction of the musicians - each modifies what he or she plays in response to the others. Each musician has to have solid fundamentals, and have experience listening to, and reacting to the other musicians, because even as they improvise within the song, there is a basic shared language that is understood by all.

If you put someone that only knows their scales, but has never performing in front of an audience, never played improvised music with an ensemble using a lead sheet, into that situation, that person would likely be overwhelmed the first time. Put that person into that situation every night for a week, and odds are good that the person will begin to learn the 'shared language' and be able to apply their scales and interact with the other players.

Scenario based training and force on force training (roleplaying scenarios in which Airsoft guns are used so that students are shooting projectiles at each other and taking incoming fire) are essential tools for developing those skills that can't be taught on the live fire range - skills that are every bit as important to survival as drawing and shooting.

Read more about Force on Force Training here.